Last Wednesday, I took part in the first ever Cambridge Anti-Slam and it was surreal and wonderful and ridiculous!
As the title would suggest, an Anti-Slam is the antithesis of a regular poetry slam. Instead of writing a great poem, performing it in front of an audience and hoping to get the top score, Anti-Slammers write the very worst poem they can, in the hopes of receiving the lowest score and therefore losing (winning) the game.
The idea is to make your poem so bad it's funny, thereby entertaining an audience of people who, like gluttons for punishment, have made the decision to come out to watch terrible poetry on a Wednesday evening.
Luckily, Cambridge has a wide range of talented poets and performers, all willing to plumb the depths of their imaginations in order to write some truly awful poems!
There was Dave (Tim Knight) who did a wonderful job convincing the audience not to buy his pamphlets and used italics in place of any kind of rational thought. Then there was MC Complex Carbohydrate (Riaz Moola) who made us all feel hungry - and a little confused - with his rap about bread-based products.
Poeticia (Justina Kehinde) was loud, brash and overconfident, while Britney Quim (Carla Keen) made everyone feel incredibly uncomfortable
with her graphic language, and Day-Z (Daisy T-G) gave us clueless social
commentary and aggressive confrontational rhetoric in equal measure.
Meanwhile Michael Brown played a range of characters, from the surprisingly shallow teenage goth, to the nervous first-time poet, to the insufferable toff, while Gavin Mandrax (Russell J Turner) spouted a string of nonsensical non-sequiturs and political garbage, to the dismay of the judges and the audience.
It was really weird to see all these great poets (people whose work and performances I really admire) being so deliberately awful! But there was also something surreal and gleeful in being able to be bad on purpose, and everyone seemed to be having a lot of fun being as terrible as possible!
For my part, I decided to play a character, in order to distance myself from the horrendous piece of poetry that I had written. As Peony Simmons, poet and part time accountant, I read out a poem about the futility of the human condition, misery, despair, and dolphin women.
It was dire.
After each performance had been scored by the judges (Ms Samantha Mann, Uppahar Subba and Mal Content) the bottom three scoring performers were supposed to go through to the final round, where they were to write a poem in 10 minutes, using suggestions from the audience. While Britney Quim and Day-Z were both guaranteed a place in the final, Poeticia and Peony Simmons were tied for third worst place. So, on the whim of the audience, we teamed up to form the first ever Anti-Slam duo!
And the clash of our performances - the dozy, monotonous Peony alongside the loud, energetic Poeticia - really resonated with the audience, who very kindly awarded us the joint title of Cambridge's worst Anti-Slam poets!
That means that Justina and I will have to come up with some more revolting rhymes and vile verse in time for our next performance at the Anti-Slam final at the Camden Roundhouse in London on Friday 29th May!
A massive thanks to Fay Roberts and Dan Simpson for putting on such a fun event, and to Paula Varjack and Dan Simpson for bringing the Anti-Slam to Cambridge. Also, a massive round of applause to Samantha, Mal and Ups for putting themselves through the torture of judging, and to Michael, Justina, Russell, Daisy, Tim, Carla and Riaz for being so good at being bad!
Anyway, enough of all that silliness! Let's get back to trying to write decent poetry!
The deadline for entries for this year's Fenland Poet Laureate Competition has now passed and I'm really excited to get down to reading all the lovely poems you've sent in!
Once the entries have all been anonymised, I'll be picking my favourites, alongside fellow judges Poppy Kleiser and guest judge Mr Cardinal Cox.
If you didn't manage to submit a poem for this year's competition, don't panic! We'll be revealing information on the awards ceremony pretty soon. For now, just put Friday 27th March into your diaries, and watch this space for further details!
And, now that it's February, 28 Sonnets Later is back! This year, we'll be poking fun at Middle England, and exploring the lives and customs of the folk of Buckley Oak.
As usual, Andy Bennett, Adam Warne, Russell J Turner and I will take it in turns to write a sonnet each over the course of February. The first sonnet - Welcome by Andy Bennett - is up on the website now, and I'm writing tomorrow's poem as we speak!
Keep up with all the fun on the 28 Sonnets Later website and don't forget to let us know what you think on Twitter - we're at @28Sonnetslater.